Wesley Botton

By Wesley Botton

Chief sports journalist

Tight battles have built character in Proteas team, says Maharaj

The SA team were pushed to the line, and emerged triumphant, in all six of their matches thus far.

Spin bowler Keshav Maharaj believes their hard-fought victories will help the Proteas shine in key moments in their remaining matches at the T20 World Cup.

The SA team will face tournament co-hosts the West Indies in their last Super 8 game in Antigua in the early hours of Monday morning (2.30pm SA time), with a spot in the penultimate round potentially on the line, but it hasn’t been an easy path for the Proteas.

All four of their matches in the group stages were closely contested, and they were pushed to the line in Super 8 games against the United States and defending champions England this week.

Winning small moments

Having maintained their composure to hang on and fight back in all those games would do them well, Maharaj felt, if they progressed to the knockout rounds.

“I think if you look at previous World Cups, the small moments we haven’t really won, and it’s good to see that I think all the games have come really close and we found a way,” Maharaj said.

“So it’s building the character within the team and I think it prepares us for certain opportunities that we could get.

“Crossing over the line in those small moments are things that we’ve never done before, so it’s good to see us getting into that.”

Unbeaten sides

South Africa and India were the only remaining unbeaten teams in the tournament, but Maharaj did not feel their run of form thus far had painted a target on their backs.

After losing to Australia in the semifinals of last year’s 50-over World Cup, he said the national side were eager to focus on the positives they could take from their performances at the current showpiece in an attempt to lift their first global title.

“I think this team believes that we can be really great as a unit,” said the experienced spinner.

“Obviously, with the last World Cup, bowing out in the semifinals has built the character and there’s a lot of hurt.

“So we just take it one game at a time and focus on trying to get the results to go our way.”

Playoff battle

If the United States beat England on Sunday night, the Proteas will book their spot in the semifinals.

If England win that game, South Africa will need to beat the West Indies or, if they lose, hope they progress on net run rate.

For more news your way

Download our app and read this and other great stories on the move. Available for Android and iOS.

For more news your way

Download our app and read this and other great stories on the move. Available for Android and iOS.